Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff Photo
Republican gubernatorial candidate Randy Brock answers questions from reporters outside the Statehouse in Montpelier on Thursday.
MONTPELIER — Republican challenger Randy Brock assured the press corps Thursday that reports of his campaign’s death are greatly exaggerated.
At least two media pundits have already declared Peter Shumlin the winner of next month’s gubernatorial election. But at a late-morning press conference on the steps of the Statehouse, Brock said internal polling has revealed a far tighter race than the 37-point spread shown by a Castleton State College poll conducted in August.
Brock wouldn’t show reporters his poll, conducted by the San Francisco consulting firm Dresner Wicker Brown, nor would he say by how much the survey showed him trailing Shumlin among likely voters.
But he said he’s convinced the race is one that he can win.
“We’ve got 26 days to close that gap and I intend to do just that with your help,” Brock said.
Over the past two weeks, two pundits have called the race for Shumlin despite there being four weeks until Election Day.
On Oct.3, Seven Days reporter Paul Heintz used his “Fair Game” column to declare Brock’s campaign “hopeless.” Two days later, VTDigger political analyst Jon Margolis said Brock “is not going to be elected governor.”
“And at some point the reluctance to declare the race over has to give way to the fact that this race is over,” Margolis wrote.
Undeterred, Brock took a new line of attack on Shumlin on Thursday, unveiling a trove of public records indicating that the Democratic incumbent has spent nearly 20 percent of his first term outside the state he’s governing.
“The ship of state demands a captain at the wheel at all times,” Brock said. “And Peter Shumlin has not been at the wheel.”
The records, produced by the Shumlin administration at the request of the Brock campaign, show that the governor was outside Vermont for 2,858 hours over the first 21 months of his term. That’s the equivalent of 119 full days.
“That’s 17 weeks — just shy of four months,” Brock said.
Less than half of Shumlin’s time away was for official business. According to records handed over to Brock by the administration, Shumlin was away on state business for a total of 1,049.5 hours. The remaining 1,808.5 hours was either for campaign work, fundraising, vacation or other personal travel.
“As governor I pledge to work night and day on improving the quality of life for all Vermonters,” Brock said. “I want to be a full-time governor.”
Shumlin campaign manager Alex MacLean called Brock’s criticism an attempt to direct attention away from the real issues on which the incumbent holds a clear advantage.
“The governor’s No. 1 focus is job creation, and the idea that the governor shouldn’t travel in order to bring jobs to Vermont is absurd,” MacLean said. “Clearly Randy’s campaign is getting desperate.”
Brock said the fundraising totals he’ll reveal next Monday — the final campaign-finance disclosure deadline before the election — will show totals on par with what he’s raised in previous reports. That means Brock has raised about $60,000 since Sept. 15, when he had $239,000 in the bank.
But his campaign since then has spent about $140,000 on television advertising alone, and Brock said Thursday he’ll need more money to make the race competitive between now and Nov. 6.
He said he’s considering another personal loan to the campaign — he contributed $300,000 of his own money in July — but that he’d prefer to “shake some trees” elsewhere.
Brock said his campaign will be targeting political moderates he believes can be swayed to his side.
“If you look at how the electorate is divided in Vermont, there are an awful lot of people who are in the middle,” Brock said. “I think there are going to be some unusual voting patterns this year that perhaps we may not have seen in prior years, and those are the kinds of people we’re trying to reach.”
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